A citizen science survey of cheetah and leopard in Etosha National Park

My name is Mburaje Keja, a proud 24-year-old Herero girl hailing from a beautiful village called Omazera, Okondjatu in Namibia. Growing up surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes of Namibia, I developed a profound love for nature and wildlife from a young age. The vibrant colours of the savannah, the majestic presence of wildlife, and the rhythmic beats of the land have always spoken to my soul. Which is why I decided to pursue a Master of Natural Resource Management degree at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, which I am currently registered to. Moreover, studying natural resource management isn’t just a career choice for me — it’s a calling. It’s about honouring my roots, preserving the land that has nurtured me, and ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come. But now let’s get to the heart of this blog post. Did you know that we don’t have reliable information on the number of cheetah and leopard in Etosha National Park?

The goal of my Master’s project will be to fill that knowledge gap and provide estimates of the population sizes of these two charismatic species using a citizen science survey. Since they can be identified thanks to their unique coat patterns, this survey will rely on observations made by Etosha’s visitors and their enthusiasm to share their cheetahs and/or leopard pictures with us.

The images will be uploaded to the African Carnivore Wildbook where artificial intelligence will assist us with individual identification. Subsequently, the data will be analysed to produce population estimates. A database of individuals of the two species will also be created as a baseline for future surveys. You can find much more information on our dedicated page on the ORC website here.

Through this citizen science initiative we’re not only gathering crucial data for conservation research, but also empowering citizens and Etosha’s visitors to become active participants in wildlife conservation. By involving visitors in the process, we’re fostering a sense of ownership and stewardship for Namibia’s rich biodiversity. You’ll find our flyers and posters at the park’s receptions and entrance gates. If you visit Etosha between 1 June 2024 and 31 May 2025, please consider sharing your cheetah and leopard sightings with us, via our online portal.